Blog Post 10: Rewind Rewind

Hi everyone,

First a quick note that the dvd Be Kind Rewind is back at the library, and should be on 3-hour reserve starting tomorrow morning. And now back to our regularly scheduled blog post…

bekindrewindSince this text begins our last section of the course, on remaking, rewriting, and re-enactment, let’s use this blog post to start thinking about how the film and the cultural practices it focuses on relate to some of the practices of appropriation we’ve explored so far. What are the aesthetics of the swede, and what’s important about them? What does a form like this (and the movie itself) say about history, memory, authorship, artistry? What are the politics of this form, and of the film itself? These are just a few of the things we’ll take up with this text over the week, so feel free to pursue these or other questions, as long as you ground your thinking in some close discussion of the film itself.

rs_560x415-140730093056-bekindrewind560Reminder: Your writing should go in the comments section for this post — click on the link near the top of this post where it says “Leave a Comment.” It should be at least 300 words, and is due by midnight Tuesday, October 31. If you have any questions, let me know via email.

 

 

 

20 thoughts on “Blog Post 10: Rewind Rewind”

  1. Regardless of the actual expenses, likely amounts of clearances, and star power that went into producing Be Kind Rewind, the film made clear that what makes a Swede a Swede is that the resulting product is noticeably low-budget, made without getting any copyright clearances, and performed by non-actors or normal people. The length of the Swede is also shorter than a full-length feature film. Compared to a feature full-length film, the Swede, as depicted by the film, is a 20-minute encapsulation of all the essential moments of a story. Basically, a Swede is the video production of a friend’s casual summary of a film. It is not as much a parody of the original as say Mumbo Jumbo may be called a parody of Western history but rather a love letter to the original. Yet those dang lawyers cannot see that these knock-offs were produced out of love rather than money… for the most part. Be Kind Rewind is subtle about this point of Swede film makers, but even Swede producers make their films for money. After all, the shop would have closed down due to a lack of funds prior to Mike, Jerry, and Alma’s productions. And, also in a subtle way, the film ends up on the side of copyright lawyers because the only way the gang makes the money is when they produce a wholly-original film, not a Swede. It seems shocking that a Jack Black film would be on the bad guy’s side, I know, but it is the truth.

    However, Be Kind Rewind does have a sort of counter-culture narrative going on. The film that the town ends up creating suggests the malleability of history and historical records. Even though the whole town actually knows that Fats did not truly exist, each civilian contributes in falsifying a legacy. This calls into question archival footage as a whole; how much of that grainy black-and-white film with skipping sound can be trusted? The provocation is similar to what White Tears touched upon. Interestingly, in Be Kind Rewind, unlike White Tears, the act of faking history is celebrated. Even the bad guys smile and clap when they see the false narrative! Way different reaction from the masses than when Seth and Carter were severely punished for their false record. Perhaps something about the medium of film makes it more morally acceptable to alter than music, or perhaps the race of the false record’s producer matters more. Or maybe Hollywood just wanted a happy ending.

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  2. Genre-wise, the high art form of the Swede cannot quite be equated with anything we have read, seen, listened to, or otherwise digested thus far in the course. This is because the creation of the Swede is not subversive, it is not commentary, and it is not— initially— created with capitalistic intent. (Swede-making does become a capitalist endeavor, but the creation of the first couple of Swedes has everything more to do with the preservation of Jerry and Mike’s jobs than it does money or publicity.) Where Jerry and Mike may classify the Swedes as recreations or homage (though homage feels like a bit of a stretch, considering their knowledge of some of these films), the Swedes become popular as a sort of parody. But parody is intentional; it is a form of commentary, which these distorted remakes are not.

    The Swedes are funny and well-liked because of how they butcher the originals. And where I do see obvious points of comparison between this movie and our prior class material, I cannot find an instance in which an audience was able to request the art that they wish to see appropriated as the enthusiastic citizens of Passaic do with their movies. At least, not that we read about. (I have no recollection of reading about art patrons begging Sherrie Levine for her take on Fountain; she just did it.) Perhaps something can be said about DJ culture here, or maybe a comparison ought to be made by demand for the Swedes and demand for the printed iPhone screenshots of Richard Prince. But the connection between sweding movies and sampling music appears too vague, and the work of Richard Prince is, for the most part, regarded very seriously.

    I think the swede exists as a hybrid of what we have looked at in this class— mostly of satire, montage, and eventually, reclamation. Finally, I condemn Michel Gondry’s choice to not portray Sigourney Weaver in a better light. (Not related to the prompt, I just think that she is a force and deserved more screen time.)

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  3. The classification of swedes as appropriation or original content depends on the context. When Jerry and Mike started making swedes, their intent was to trick consumers into thinking their versions of the films were the originals. In this scenario, copyright lawyers probably have the right to sue them for pirating films for profit. On a moral level, however, Mike was just trying to save the rental shop’s reputation and general existence; he was not necessarily trying to capitalize financially. Once the swedes became in high demand, the protagonists started publicly labeling them “swedes,” thus letting the consumers know exactly who they were and what they were doing. In a montage depicting the high demand of swedes, customers would literally ask for specific films “sweded”. At least in this scenario, the customers are not being duped; still, the original filmmakers and their lawyers could have a problem. I honestly have not decided how I feel about this. On one hand, the ideas are not original, but on the other hand, the new product is in a completely original form, with new actors and a new format. I am inclined to believe that the lawyers should not have been so harsh and destroyed the films; they could have let them keep the films without letting them make money off of them. Even so, I feel like the new product is so different from the original that they should be kind (pun intended).

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  4. A successful Swede includes a clear representation of its source material, low-budget special effects, and overzealous characterizations of the source’s protagonists. This last characteristic must be present at all costs, even if that means questionable performances by Jack Black portraying a myriad of cultures and races. At first, the Swede is created in order to trick consumers into thinking the video shop is still a viable business, but when the popularity of Sweded films increases in Passaic, the films become deliberate, self-aware parodies of their source material. The intentionality behind Swede filmmaking does not, however, change their nature. As we’ve mentioned a number of times throughout the semester, appropriation is not necessarily reliant on intentionality. Swede filmmaking, as a deliberate medium of parody, is probably a bit more worthy of artistic admiration than the Swede as an attempt of true recreation. As a parody, a Swede taps into the audience’s most basic memory of a film and seeks to evoke funny and lighthearted responses to those memories. The politics of Sweding becomes a bit complicated in this film, as Jack Black begins to portray a number of nonwhite characters. This film, however, is a comedy and I think having Black’s character playing those roles is more of an attempt at comedy than a message on the politics of recreation. The film is also, unquestionably aware of the wrongness in having Jack Black portray these characters, as the crux of this joke is involves Jerry thinking that he’s going to be the one to portray Fats Waller in the original film and is met with quick and harsh backlash.

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  5. Rather than the contents of the swedes, I’d like to instead focus on the cultural effect they have on the community and society at large. In essence, the swede as it comes to be developed is an amalgamation not only of the societal memory of Pasaic, in the form of members of the community taking part in their making, but also of the societal memory of American, and to a lesser extent of the world, cinematic popular culture. Regarding the former quality, the swede format takes several aspects of Pasaic, from the scenery to the people to the budgetary constraints, and fuses them together, forming a new transference on the old city, effectively creating a myth of the “real” Pasaic. The swedes themselves are a prototype of the new myth, whereas the Fats documentary at the end is its culmination in new cultural memory. The second type of societal memory is more metafictional. As Mike and Jerry make the swedes based on the original movies, one assumes by memory alone, they engage in exchange with their filmmaking contemporaries. Though Jerry does not deserve the ego he gets when he starts making the swedes, he has accomplished a difficult task of concentrating popular culture into the bits necessary to recognize it as such. He and Mike take Ghostbusters and take out all of the parts that aren’t Ghostbusters, making a film that is, give or take the main theme song, functionally the same as the original, only over a shorter period of time. Be Kind Rewind as a whole runs with this theme of cultural concentration, relying on the viewer to fill in the gaps. Much of the humor of the swedes comes from a familiarity with the original text. The director encourages the audience to engage with these other texts, from Ghostbusters to Gummo, though tragically the latter’s sweded version is not seen in the film. As the characters in the movie engage with film culture, so too does the audience of the movie.

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  6. Throughout Be Kind Rewind I kept thinking about fan culture – especially of fan-made videos. I have personal experience with fan-made videos, as my brothers and I, when we were young, often made parody films of several of our favorite movies. On YouTube, fan-made videos could be anything from tribute montages fans make of their favorite artists or characters, to more well-known YouTube channels like Honest Trailers of How It Should Have Ended. Obviously – these kind of videos seem to be incredibly important to viewers and makers, alike. I’m thinking especially of the Fair Use copyright case that occurred several years ago – where fans had to fight for their right to still have access to copyrighted material. These types of videos, like Swedes, seem primarily concerned with paying tribute to the subject material they parody or remake. Beyond just paying tribute to this subject material, however, there is also a deeper relationship at play when fans are actually able to put some part of themselves into the subject material they so admire.

    The kinds of fans who make these types of videos – let’s call them “casually obsessive” fans – have a very close relationship to the subject material. By being able to actually get their hands into the material, manipulating it the way they want, they are able to – in a way – enter the material in a way that passive viewing never allows. They are able to interact with worlds and characters in a far more intimate way, giving beloved characters voice, or merely making an already entertaining object even more entertaining. This feels like we’re moving back into Barthe territory here: a death of an author by the birth of many other “authors” from the pool of viewers. Viewers need not merely stand at a distance, but are now able, and permitted, to engage with subject material in a more personal way.

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  7. Be Kind Rewind raises some interesting questions about the materiality of the Swede film. First and foremost, what I think is important to acknowledge is that Be Kind Rewind is intended to be a comedy. This is an important choice by director Michel Gondry as it aligns the film with the inherent aesthetic of Swede films in general. By its nature, the Swede is very much a novelty bootleg—a desperate recreation at a finished work. The fact that they are poorly done is what adds to their comedic nature and by consequence their intrinsic value. Consider the Swede without the lens of comedy: if one were to seriously look at a Swede film in the hopes of finding a comparable remake to the original film from which it stems, the viewer would only be left with what Swede films superficially are—trash remakes.
    However, going off this bootleg-aesthetic, once an audience is able to suspend their disbelief and acknowledge that the Swede is a comedy by nature, we are able to distance ourselves from the original intent of the story and instead focus on the creative execution of the film itself. Often in the Sweded films in Be Kind Rewind Mos Def and Jack Black manipulate perspective to achieve scenes that would be otherwise impossible for amateur videographers to pull off. One example would be their recreation of Rush Hour 2 wherein they use a child’s rug of a two-dimensional city to give the effect of height atop a building. Another, and my personal favorite, is the recreation of the famous scene in Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey wherein Mos Def is filmed through a rotating pipe as the camera itself turns to create the effect of the astronaut running in altered gravity around the ship. These creative ploys achieve what they’re ultimately intended to do—to get the audience to focus more on how the Swede was executed rather than the plot that the original director had intended.

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  8. The first part of the film that struck me was when Mr. Fletcher met up with the other men to discuss business. “Adapt, give the people what they want, that’s what you gotta do,” said a man who just made bank applying a stainless steel finish to a soap dispensing sponge. Mr. Fletcher, of course, is aware that this was not the first time anybody invented something of this convenience but the idea itself prompts him to rethink his mode of business. This idea of taking something old and making it look nice to the public I found to be a very grounding platform for the film.

    Another aspect of the film I found most interesting was the people who played the characters in the Swedes. There is everything from using black actors to portray white characters and even blackface makes an ugly appearance on Jack Black’s character Jerry. (On a separate note, Jerry seems to find a way to offend every single minority in the film—and as Mr. Fletcher so aptly asserts: everything he touches is destroyed.) This definitely brings to mind for me how almost all stories of appropriation incorporate elements of racism that are perpetuated by a non-minority group; in this case, Jerry acts as the idiotic-white-guy who somehow saves the minorities from the projects by being his damn self. Jerry also steals Alma’s brilliant idea which I’m still frustrated by but it’s a very similar dynamic to what women in the film industry have to deal with every day, especially women of color.

    The part I think I enjoyed the most in the movie was definitely when audience became actors and actresses in the film. It’s sort of an interesting take on how through appropriation, people actually appropriate themselves. Or rather, paying for appropriation. Similar to other modes of appropriation we’ve discussed in class, the audience’s participation in appropriative media consumption mirrors that of music listeners. They’re paying to listen to something that an artist created which was then remade and claimed by another. Perhaps even music consumers might have even participated in this themselves.

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  9. Be Kind Rewind is a blatant example of appropriation through film. In the movie, Jerry and Mike recreate movies with the intention of saving their shop from an unlucky fate of all their movies being destroyed. This also brings up issues of copyright because they are stealing stories from already existing work and claiming their movies as the originals, but that’s a whole other issue. Swedes in essence tend to be lower budget because they are amateur versions of films, and serve as a type of parody. This idea makes me think about fan fiction and other types of fan based creations. Both Be Kind Rewind and fan fiction give a new perspective to an original story and although parts of it stay true to the original author’s intent, much of the plot is altered by the new authors take on the already existing story. However, what separates the two is that fan fiction does not claim to be something that it’s not. If you read fanfiction you know that it is an extension of an already existing piece of work intended to gain new perspective. In Be Kind Rewind, Jerry and Mike create an altered plot. Although they don’t necessarily intend to, the difference in actors, cinematography, and setting change the story. Jerry and Mike want to deceive their audience into thinking their creations are original. There is a turning point in the film, however, when they acknowledge that these are not in fact the originals, and are just recreations that they are making. This gives them more of a parody and genuine remake approach, but is still a form of appropriation all the same.

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  10. Be kind Rewind raises many questions about Sweded films. In most ways this genre of films (as depicted in Be Kind Rewind), adheres to the structure we previously established – taking an existing object, changing it a little and calling it something new. I think that Sweded films highlight an important point about which we have spoken: what it means to make something that is new vs. making something inspired by a previous work vs. creating something that is meant to be that thing. Are Sweded movies different movies entirely, a new work that is connected to the old movie (because it is inspired by it), or does it still count as that movie. I think this definition changes throughout Be Kind Rewind too because, at first it seems like the movies (specifically Ghostbusters) are meant to replace or take the place of the original film. The original movie physically did not exist anymore and the recreation was meant to take its place – it is also significant that it is on the same tape that the original movie came on. I would doubt that Jerry and Mike actually thought that their recreation would pass as the original, but the symbolic act of putting their movie in the place of the original, on the original tape, represents them claiming their film as a re-make, a stand-in for the original. However, once they start claiming the films as “sweded” they are claiming it as a separate, new movie. It is not Ghostbusters but the Sweded Ghostbusters. Perhaps one thing that makes it clear that these are something new and not a recreation is the aesthetic of the films – they are low quality, and visibly homemade as opposed to the original films (Ghostbusters, Rush Hour, etc) which were high quality, professional films.
    One important part of the film was when Jerry comes out dressed as Fats with Black face. Obviously Jerry is shut down right away, and the scene lasts maybe 30 seconds, but I think that this is important. This scene makes it clear that even in recreating and remaking films, even if you are appropriating other artists’ ideas – it is not ok to appropriate culture.
    Lastly, I think it could be interesting to look at and/or compare Sweded films (whereas Sweded films are the Sweded versions of existing films and not a new story in the Sweded style) and other established, legitimate remakes.

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  11. I was curios as we were watching “Be Kind, Rewind” as to what the filmmakers had to do to get the rights to each and every one of the movies that was featured as a swede. I googled the matter to no avail. There is the potential for some interesting meta-commentary there, so I am disappointed that I could not find anything, but I digress. Anyways.

    To me, the most important component of a swede is the love for the source material that goes into making it. This is not to say that the initial bunch that Jerry and Mike made were done out of a love for the films they spoofed, as the “art form” came about only because they were trying to cover for having erased the tapes. But I imagine that none of the customers who placed an order for a swede of their own once they became popular did not select their favorite films. This has been on my mind because it relates to part of what I am writing about for my senior seminar paper in American Studies, which is about art and authorship in a digital age. In my paper, I talk about the issue of plagiarism when it comes to appropriative audiovisual art, and touch upon whether or not the excuse of “paying respect/tribute” to a piece of work in part justifies the act of appropriating it. In my usual non-committal fashion, I am not about to answer a definitive yes or no in this blog post. However, I as with many of the works of art I concern my paper with, the swede is (at least it ends up being) a form of comedic homage. Part of their majesty has to do with the fact that they caricaturize something that audience members are aware of the existence of. The understanding that a swede is a parody, and that its creators did not come up with the content they spoof, is an essential part of its enjoyment (again, I know they were originally meant to pass as the actual films, but I’m talking here about what they became). Does this have any bearing on whether or not creations like these should be “allowed” to exist? Who knows (I promise I’ll answer yes or no in my actual paper).

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  12. “I’m Bill Murray. You’re everybody else.”
    In the movie, and in life, it doesn’t necessarily matter what the truth is, it just matters what you believe to be the truth. This movie raises important questions about perceptions of the reality around you or the reality one creates. All the tapes are erased because Jerry miraculously became magnetic causing Mike to remake the titles he has on the boxes–on the sleeves of the VHS. In the beginning of the film, and throughout, we hear about Fats Waller—the great jazz musician from Passaic, New Jersey. The re-telling of Fats’ life includes familiar characters—Mike, Jerry, and Mr. Fletcher. Though the facts may be accurate (or not) we are supposed to believe what we see. Not only because we are trusting of the story but also because the style in which it was shot is supposed to evoke some sort of “old time” vibe. The films that Jerry and Mike go on to make are, as Jerry explains, “Sweded”—they are expensive to make which is why there are crazy costumes and strange happenings. These films, the remakes of popular movies watched by Passaic residence, are reinterpretations of culture, stories, histories, and moments in time. This reminded me of Mumbo Jumbo in a lot of ways. There is a certain retelling that we are meant to trust but that inherently we know is false or untrue. But then, we question the original thing we are seeing in the first place. All of it is self referential but so simple at the same time. Why can’t everything be reinterpreted or remade into something else? In the film, Mike and Jerry’s intentions are innocent, at first at least, but reimagining a history of a people or place, like in Reed’s writing, comments on why we believe the things we read in the first place. If the story is supposed to be real, unlike in Ghostbusters or Rush Hour 2, why do we often accept only one version?

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  13. I’ll be honest. Be Kind Rewind is not really my kind of movie. I’m a big fan of the action and drama genres so locking in for 2 hours of comedy was a little tough for me. That being said, obviously, Be Kind Rewind is interesting when thinking about the location of Swedes in relation to plagiarism and authorship but I think the idea of reclamation to be the most influential in the film. Urban legends and myths are big parts of every community and the idea to make a documentary that “proves” the history of Fats Waller is an interesting concept. The community effectively makes the myth of Fats Waller true by participating in further creation and solidification in group memory. This prompted me to think about the oral history tradition that we discussed briefly a few weeks ago. The idea that something occurs and then is passed down through stories by each generation. Inevitably, things change. Details blur, minor acts of kindness become acts great heroism, and suddenly a story has a life of its own. Be Kind Rewind sort of messes with this idea by taking a myth and making a documentary about it. This almost gives the myth more credence because the modern day person is taught to think of documentaries as fact based and truthful. So, by making a documentary about a myth the film entirely messes with our perception of what is true and what is not in the context of film/documentary.

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  14. In Be Kind Rewind, the swedes that main characters Mike and Jerry create are distinguished by their low-budget aesthetics while still portraying a great deal of effort and creativity by their creators. While the swedes are originally made to replicate the original movies that Mike accidentally erased, the remakes become much more coveted and marketable for the previously failing video store. Customers from the community applaud Mike and Jerry for their creations and form huge lines out the door to receive a sweded version of their favorite films. Jerry even embraces the role of a local celebrity, constantly being recognized for the movie and signing autographs for kids. This reception from the community portrays a wide acceptance that these films are unique recreations that are made and owned by Mike and Jerry. They only face push-back from lawyers from the film industry who claim their enterprise is dying because of bootleggers and pirates such as Mike and Jerry. However, the sentiments of the movie clearly portray the film lawyers as antagonists, and the community’s ability to create their own original film as a triumphant finale. As a form of appropriation, Mike and Jerry seem justified by the amount of effort and visual creativity they place into their swedes, using elaborate costumes and a variety of public settings to make the scenes entertaining. Because of this effort and emphasis on visual aesthetics and comedic value, the swedes and the film as a whole is much more accessible as a work than many other pieces of appropriation art we have discussed as a class.

    The intentions for this film, outside of the context of our class, are that of a light-hearted yet sentimental comedy; and does not directly confront some of the more nuanced understandings and ethical questions we have discussed in class about appropriation art. Because the swedes are generally accepted by the community as original content by Mike and Jerry, larger issues of content ownership are not debated or subverted by this movie. An alternative narrative that might be more ethically nuanced would be if Mike and Jerry chose to directly bootleg films by recording them in theatres or even on other people’s screens, and then renting them for profit. Then when confronted by the film industry they could claim the films are their own artistic creations, and provide a convoluted description of the nature of their own process for recording other recordings of films. This would present a much more controversial take on appropriation, similar to Prince’s and other appropriation artists’ more conceptual works that we found more difficult to engage with. I think the accessibility of this film allows it to continue its larger narrative of an underdog video store without disruption, allowing a more direct argument in favor of creative and effort-based appropriation. While the more difficult pieces we have looked at have inherently forced us as readers to create our own meanings and opinions of what forms of appropriation art are justifiable as unique works.

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  15. Be Kind Rewind highlights a new form of appropriation – Swedes. I found the development of the story to the fame of the Swedes foreshadowed the end and true impact of the film. The swede was created by accident, in order to mask a giant mistake that was unfixable. Mike and Jerry approached their unfortunate situation in a way that ended up attracting the entire community and nation. Aesthetically, a swede involves a low-budget, quirky, fan-centered film that emphasizes the most exhilarating parts of a film into twenty-minutes. What made them grow so rapidly was that people already knew the original movie. The swede came in and provided a comical, original parody that was entertaining and different from anything else in the market. It connected locals to community members and made them feel like a part of the film themselves.

    Although the police took all of the swedes, this act inspired Mike, Jerry and Fletcher to create a film about Fats Waller which involved a higher-budget and the entire community. Fats Waller was not born in the video store, however, this film proved that he was, which brings documentary into the question. The Fats Waller film involved an entire community with an untruthful message, but made it convincing through images, effects and “history”. This film presented itself as the truth and all of the locals fell in love with the final product, knowing how much went into it. The hard work in both the Swedes and the Fats Waller film brings light to a new territory of low-budget, parody films that are still as effective as other appropriative art forms.

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  16. The central questions in Be Kind Rewind are the role authorship and when does an homage become an original work? After all of the VHS tapes get erased at the shop, Mike and Jerry are basically forced into making fan remakes in order to keep the shop afloat. The remakes, being made with the least amount of money as possible and shot in a day, not surprisingly had a very loose connection to the original idea of the films that they are attempting to portray. As an original idea, it could be considered an expression of free speech.
    Furthermore, since the intent of Mike and Jerry was not to directly copy the works of famous directors, they should have been spared the legal ramifications that they were going to have to face. If the goal is to create an original work, or if the reproduction ends up being significantly different than the original work, then the production should be treated in the same manner as an original work, even if it is a failed clone, like Mike and Jerry’s first movie, Ghostbusters.
    Thus, the takeaway that I got from Be Kind Rewind, is that a derivative work can be original in its own sense, as long as it is unique. This is the same rule that applies to other art forms, such as readymades and collage. The logic behind this is that if something applies to one art form, then it should also apply to multiple other forms as well. If this rule is to apply broadly across art forms then, from a legal standpoint, Mike and Jerry, whose movies are significantly different than the originals that they try to copy, should be considered a separate and original product, not just a hastily put together copy of a blockbuster movie.

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  17. At its heart, Be Kind Rewind is a story about the love of creation. The amount of fun and joy Jerry and Mike bring to each other and the community by making the best out of an accident implies remaking to be its own unique art. The Sweded film is a homemade production, a recreation of a film. In the case of the Fats Waller story, an original. The Swede is short, creatively produced (in terms of the out-of-the-box methods for recreating special effects), and a communal effort. The interest that the customers show in the Swedes is what merits their continued production, and later they too become parts of that production.
    What this film displays more prominently than any other appropriation/piece about appropriation we’ve studied is how much effort goes into an appropriation. To watch the time and thought that Mike, Jerry, Alma, and the Swede enthusiasts that help them actually make the movies was a very pointed reminder that an appropriation isn’t always just slapping one’s signature onto an already finished work, but rather a reuse or reinterpretation.
    The Swede attacks the idea of authenticity. Details are forgotten, changed, misrepresented. Though, as Alma argues, this is irrelevant. No one watches these films for more than 20 minutes of content. Fats Waller Was Born Here also directly challenges history and factuality, in that the writers and crew actively re-write parts of Waller’s life into an amalgamation of biography, exaggeration, and fabrication. The love for entertainment drives this process more than any desire; it’s not about documenting Fats’ life but rather paying tribute to him and the practice of planning and shooting homemade films. Even as their shop is about to be demolished, Mr. Fletcher pleads with the demolitioner to at least let them finish watching the movie they worked so hard on. Be Kind Rewind hammers in that this scene is meant to be heartwarming by focusing on the enthralled faces of the Swede’s audience to heartwarming piano. The message here is clear: there is a certain beauty and magic of mass creation. Recreation may not save the shop, but it galvanized a community.

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  18. Being a film about ‘Swedeing,’ I wasn’t expecting this film to take on any of the racial and cultural history of appropriation. I was pleasantly surprised when the film opened with jazz. As we have seen in this course, jazz is at the root of most appropriation, whether it be cultural, musical, or otherwise. In White Tears, appropriation of jazz and blues culture led to Seth’s downfall. In remix and DJ culture, jazz is a cornerstone. It seems fitting that we have seen jazz’s appropriation portrayed through text, music, and now film.
    That being said, I certainly don’t think the film appropriates jazz. I think it cleverly uses the character of Jerry to explore the issue of appropriation while managing to steer clear of becoming problematic. For instance, Mike, Jerry, and Alma all play characters of multiple races, but for the most part without altering their appearance (Mike played Bill Murray in Ghostbusters, Jerry played Jacky Chan in Rush Hour 2, Alma definitely had to play some white ladies). It is only when making their final film, when Jerry wants to play Fats and innocently puts on blackface, that one of them crosses a line – and is rightfully admonished for it.
    It seems significant that Passaic is a predominantly black town, while the city management trying to shut down Be Kind Rewind is entirely white. It brings a racially charged element to the showdown between Mr. Fletcher and the government. The scenes in which Mr. Fletcher discusses his video store with the government are even more charged because the government is completely otherized from the Passaic people. They clearly do not understand the bond of the people of Passaic or the significance (cultural or otherwise) of Mr. Fletcher’s store, and so when they are allowed to decide their fate it is even more devastating.
    Speaking of devastating, I just wanted to voice the beginnings of my thoughts on the fact that it was Sigourney Weaver – the star of Ghostbusters, their first Swede – who destroys all their hard work. That was crazy.

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  19. The swede is a hilarious, entertaining homemade remake. I can’t even describe how much I laughed during the scenes when they were reenacting and remaking the original films. I think there is something really interesting going on with the swedes. The ethics and improvised aesthetics used by Jerry and Mike indicate the changing playing field of this inevitable, fast paced pop and media culture coming right around the corner. It not only is predicting this culture, but also simultaneously embracing the mass-produced, money making Hollywood film style that is the current culture. Although the films Jerry and Mike make were nowhere near as well produced, I can’t help but think there is some way in which Michael Gondry is anticipating that these fast budget films, whether they’re swede or Hollywood, are the way of the future and easily digestible to a wide audience.

    In terms of appropriation, yes, they are taking something of someone else’s and claiming it as their own which is illegal, but I remain a bit resistant to simply calling it appropriation. Their intent is not to steal, but recreate and creatively make these originals into a new form. We’ve studied a lot of what justifies calling this type of appropriation art, but I think in the case of swedes, there is something else they are tapping into, a unique art form and process is created, and we should not simply label it as unlawful appropriation. I think the fact that the swedes ended up forming into an original film says a lot about the appropriative implications of the practice. If the movie had ended with Jerry and Mike creating more and more swedes based exactly off of other films, the discussion of appropriation would be different. But the fact that they discovered what made the swedes so special is not that they copied someone else’s work or film, but that there is an inherent originality in the swedes themselves, they were able to then conceive their own idea and value the birth of creative originality from unoriginality.

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  20. how the film and the cultural practices it focuses on relate to some of the practices of appropriation we’ve explored so far. What are the aesthetics of the swede, and what’s important about them? What does a form like this (and the movie itself) say about history, memory, authorship, artistry? What are the politics of this form, and of the film itself?

    One of the key elements of appropriation we’ve focused on in class is remaking. An important aspect of remaking is what it’s doing with the original source material — Is it an homage? Is it a translation? The aesthetics of sweding blur these lines because on hand hand they can be seen as homage or parody, but on the other hand there is the issue of copyright infringement and intentionality of the owner. As seen in Be Kind Rewind, the inception of sweding had everything to do with parody and homage, and very little to do with profit. However, the intention eventually changed. I’d say that both instances of parody/homage and copyright infringement, while very hilarious, belie an intention of flouting the original source material. In the history of appropriation ( or rather, my understanding based on the course so far), this type of art does not really add anything tangibly original–other than new actors, and less budget– to the source material. Culturally, I think it offers something tangible than many people want. Sweding posits the idea that anyone can be a movie star (kind of like reality TV). Be Kind Rewind and other swedes allow us to vicariously afford a fantasy in which we can leap from passive viewers to active participants. So legally, this form does not have a substantive claim, but for the individual person, it has a higher calling – we don’t want to just consume our favorite movies, we want to live them!

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